A new study indicates that only half of young adults with autism have jobs after leaving high school. They also are less likely to hold down a full-time job, and their wages are less than their disabled peers.
In the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, (NLTS2), researchers surveyed young adults who had received special education services in high school starting in 2000 to determine their employment status as young adults.
Researchers surveyed youth who had ever had a job or had a current job and were ages 21 to 25. Children with these other disabilities besides autism were included in the study:
- mental retardation (MR)
- emotional disturbance (ED)
- learning disability (LD)
- speech/language impairment (SLI)
The researchers analyzed:
• rates of full-time employment
• wages earned
• number of jobs had since high school
• types of jobs held
Among autistic young adults, about half (53.4 percent) had ever worked, which was the lowest rate for all disability groups in the study. Only 20.9 percent of youth with autism worked full-time.
In the other four groups of disabled young adults, working full-time ranged from 39.7 percent for youth with MR to 73.3 percent of youth with SLI.
Additionally, autistic young adults earned on average $8.10 an hour, which was the lowest wage rate among the participants. For example, young adults with ED received on average wage of $13.10 and those with SLI had an average wage of $12.00 an hour.
The types of jobs the young adults with autism had were:
• production (assembly)
• food prep
Young adults with other disabilities had some of the same types of jobs as those with autism, but they also held different jobs such as construction or sales. The young adults with autism who had paid jobs, either currently or in the past, tended to have these characteristics:
• They were older.
• They came from higher-income households.
• They had better conversational abilities or functional skills.
“Findings of worse employment outcomes for young adults with an [autism spectrum disorder] suggest that this population is experiencing particular difficulty in successfully transitioning into employment,” the authors conclude. “Research is needed to determine strategies for improving outcomes as these young adults transition into adulthood.”
The same researchers recently published another study, which indicates that young adults with autism are less likely to live in the community compared to their peers with other disabilities.